"Racism is the intentional or unintentional use of power to isolate,
separate and exploit others. . . Racism is more than just a personal
attitude; it is the institutionalized form of the attitude"
Now all of the issues of environmental racism and environmental justice don't just deal with people of color. We are just as much concerned with inequities in Appalachia, for example, where the whites are basically dumped on because of lack of economic and political clout and lack of having a voice to say "no" and that's environmental injustice.
-Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental equity: Poison people equally
Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. Environmental justice is the movement's response to environmental racism. "Environmental equity" is not environmental justice. "Environmental equity" is the government's response to the demands of the environmental justice movement. Government agencies, like the EPA, have been coopting the movement by redefining environmental justice as "fair treatment and meaningful involvement," something they consistently fail to accomplish, but which also falls far short of the environmental justice vision. The environmental justice movement isn't seeking to simply redistribute environmental harms, but to abolish them.
A note on institutional racism...
The most significant problem facing people of color is the institutional and cultural racism which results in discrimination in access to services, goods and opportunities. Institutional racism involves polices, practices, and procedures of institutions that have a disproportionately negative effect on racial minorities' access to and quality of goods, services, and opportunities. Systemic racism is the basis of individual and institutional racism; it is the value system that is embedded in a society that supports and allows discrimination. Institutional and systemic racism establishes separate and independent barriers. Institutional racism does not have to result from human agency or intention. Thus, racial discrimination can occur in institutions even when the institution does not intend to make distinctions on the basis of race. In the context of racism, power is a necessary precondition for discrimination. Racism depends on the ability to give or withhold social benefits, facilities, services, opportunities etc., from someone who is entitled to them, and is denied on the basis of race, color or national origin. The source of power can be formal or informal, legal or illegal, and is not limited to traditional concepts of power. Intent is irrelevant; the focus is on the result of the behavior.